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Jul 06th
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Attention Drew Brees, Sam Huff has a few questions for you

huffsam_optBY EVAN WEINER

You get the feeling from Sam Huff that he would not mind suiting up for one more game, maybe at the old Yankee Stadium as a New York Giants linebacker or at the old D. C. Stadium in Washington performing the same duties for the Redskins and lining up against New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees.

Huff, who was there at the beginning of the National Football league Players Association in 1956, represents a good many players of his era like Charlie Sumner and Pat Matson among others has no use for Brees. The New Orleans Saints quarterback, according to the old players, apparently thinks it is not the responsibility of the National Football Players Association to look after the players who literally built the industry in the 1950s (and before), 1960s and 1970s.

His statement made in 2010 still resonates among former players such as Huff, Matson and Sumner.

“There’s some guys out there that have made bad business decisions,” Brees said. “They took their pensions early because they never went out and got a job. They've had a couple divorces and they're making payments to this place and that place. And that’s why they don’t have money. And they’re coming to us to basically say, ‘Please make up for my bad judgment.’ In that case, that’s not our fault as players.”

Brees apparently did not know – or he just parroted NFLPA talking points. According to Eugene (Mercury) Morris, the Miami Dolphins running back in the 1970s, Brees' comment was just a repeat statement that was made three years earlier.

“The statements by Drew Brees on retired players came from ''talking points'' from Doug Ell," Morris said of the labor lawyer who works with the NFLPA. "Those same comments appear in the Congressional Record from the June 26th 2007 hearing called ''An Uneven Playing Field?''

Brees, who is one of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit that was filed on March 11 in an attempt to end the NFL owners’ lockout, may have missed another history lesson that is sure to come up in a Minneapolis courtroom in the case in two weeks. After the failed 1987 NFLPA strike (when the association could not hold the membership together and many stars including Lawrence Taylor, Joe Montana and Howie Long crossed the “picket line” along with ordinary players), the association decertified in order to file a lawsuit against the NFL.

The National Football League Players Association, after disbanding in 1989, said it would never again represent the players. Four years later, the NFLPA, with the same leadership in place, reorganized and represented the players again.

Brees and the players will have a difficult time explaining the NFLPA’s actions in 1989 and 1993. The NFL filed an unfair labor practice charge against the NFLPA in February and claimed the NFLPA was not negotiating in good faith in the then on-going talks aimed at reaching a new collective bargaining agreement. The heart of the argument is the 1989 association decertification, which led to the Freeman McNeil antitrust lawsuit against the league.

The NFL owners have maintained that the players planned to use the decertification card in the 2011 talks as leverage. The NFLPA has dismissed the NFL owners concern.

Sam Huff played between 1956 and 1969 when players -- with the exception of Joe Namath -- were not highly paid. Whatever gains players made by selling their services to completing leagues (the old and established NFL and the new AFL -- the fifth attempt by NFL rival promoters to successful stage a league) when they finished college irritated the owners.

In fact, former National Football League Commissioner Pete Rozelle went before Congress in 1966 begging for Congressional permission to violate antitrust laws so that the American Football league and National Football League could merge because a bidding war for players was becoming too costly for both leagues. Rozelle got the merger with some old fashioned horse-trading. He got key yes votes from Senator Russell Long and Congressman Hale Boggs (both of Louisiana) in exchange for an expansion franchise in New Orleans.

The merger brought an end to the bidding war for talent and suppressed salaries. It probably stripped collective bargaining rights away from the players in both leagues. The NFLPA opposed the merger but the union’s complaints fell on deaf ears in Congress.

“Getting $500 a year (raise) was a big deal from (Giants owner) Wellington (Mara),’’ Huff said. “When I was drafted I went with Wellington to the Ed Sullivan show. He offered me $5.000 (in 1956) and that was so much money, more than my dad ever made in the coal mines (of West Virginia). I told Mr. Mara I can't sign and let me check with my coach Art Lewis. He had played in the NFL. I called Coach Lewis and said here I am in New York and (the Giants) offered me a contract for $5,000. Pappy -- we called him Pappy -- said sign before he changes his mind.”

Sam Huff was the face of the New York Giants and maybe the NFL during his playing days. He was on the cover of a November 1959 issue of Time magazine (the first ever NFL player on that magazine's cover) and the star of the CBS News documentary (yes at one time network news was a crown jewel of CBS and NBC and the networks did do documentaries) "The Violent World of Sam Huff (narrated by Walter Cronkite) in 1960.

Huff helped popularize the NFL and has this advice for Brees.

“Drew Brees should keep his mouth shut," Huff said from West Virginia on Thursday. “We (he and his Giants teammates from the 1950s and 1960s) would put a target on his back. I don't understand all this crap. We formed it (the NFLPA). Kyle Rote (the Giants end), he did it and put it all together.”

Despite being the face of the Giants and the NFL, Huff's final salary with the Giants in 1963 was $19,000. He made more money in Washington, his first contract with the Redskins was for $30,000 in 1964. But Huff didn't become rich from playing football and his second career with Marriott along with being part of the Washington Redskins radio broadcasts made him secure.

Comments (11)
11 Wednesday, 25 May 2011 08:57
Huff needs to go back under the rock he came from. All those helmet to helmet hits must have shut his small brain down. He obviously has no clue what he's talking about.
10 Thursday, 31 March 2011 02:02
Ana Sandor
Drew Brees has the right to say or sue whomever. Yet, the reality of the CBA is that the NFL's and NFLPA are both responsible for the retirement plan being 40% underfunded. This means that the plan is subject to being taken over by the federal government. The NFLPA receives a percentage of the revenues as part of the past CBA. Athletes pay around $15,000 a year (rumored) to be a part of the union on top of that. It is not all the NFL that is involved in the money issues - it is definitely the union. So many athletes do not have a sound understanding of what is going on with the CBA and the union. The athletes need to be concerned about the actions of the union and not negotiating in "good faith" under arbitration laws. Former athlete's benefits are paid for by the current athletes - similar to social security where the current working generation is paying for the generation before them.

The NFL is a large sports league; yet, they are not the only football league in the world. Brees and other athletes can go play in the arena football league or some of the new leagues. The problem - they will not make as much money in those leagues. Since there are other sports leagues that the athletes can play in to include Europe; is it truly a monopoly? Just because ATT is the largest does not mean that there is not competition for the services provided. Same principle.

The NFLPA used the fans to sign a petition to Godell through the website that the fans delivered recently to Godell. The website is owned by the NFLPA (Check whois and findout who the registrar is) and was opened in March 2010. I think that it is poor PR to have the fans do the unions work. Did the union pay those fans to travel to where godell was and the costs incurred. Very curious. De (Maurice) are you out there?

Ana S. Washington, DC
9 Wednesday, 30 March 2011 14:23
Don't know the other guys you mention, Evan, but Gene Atkins played for my Saints and he made a very healthy living. He should have been better prepared. Huff, himself, may have something to whine about and let's face it, it is whining. If they played for the love of the game, then what are they complaining about? No one is taking their love away. The NFL and NFLPA owes them nothing. They signed their contracts willingly. They should ask nicely and be happy with whatever they get. Antagonizing the leadership is the wrong approach.
8 Wednesday, 30 March 2011 13:25
Bush Doctor
This idiot has a hard-on for Drew Brees for no rational reason... And he throws the late Gene Upshaw under the bus for "making it all about the money." Sorry, but I don't think Mr. Upshaw invented the idea of greed... Check yourself before you go on the radio Sam Huff!!! Nobody cares what you think... Giants and Redskins suck!
7 Wednesday, 30 March 2011 13:17
Bush Doctor
what the hell is sam huff whining about...? Drew Brees made an accurate comment... Sam Huff needs to keep his mouth shut, or Greg Williams will put a target on his back...
6 Wednesday, 30 March 2011 13:00
James Wilson
I have never heard or read Sam Huff or the late Kyle Rote cry about the money they were paid back then. Back then it was all about the "Love of The Game."
I would suggest a little more reading about the history of the game and its players.
Rote took a second job in the off season to support his family.
The real reson for him starting the Players Association had little or nothing to do with money.
Remember the years. This was back when "colored people" had seperate bathrooms and seperate hotels to use; "Whites Only," the signs read.
When on-the-road, Rote thought this was an injustice for his "Black" team mates, he was the Captain of the Giants. He chose to stay in the hotels with them over the White Only ones.
Todays players should be thanking men like Huff and Rote for what they did. Many, and certainly not all, are making mad money. They play with a lot more padding protection today too.
I have no bad feelings towards Drew. I just don't think he knows all of the facts. The "Old-Timers," kept this stuff private. They were, I feel, just a little more humble.
I would suggest to some players, that rather than buying another automobile, they consider sending that money to The Kyle and Nina Rote Foundation. One thing this foundation supports is "Focus Adolescent Services," who for decades has saved American children and maybe even some who we see on the field on Sundays.
5 Wednesday, 30 March 2011 12:42
evan weiner
To RobF,
These older guys are asking for health benefits. Some of them are not older guys. Only a handful of players, the two Mannings, Favre, Tomlinson, Brady are truly set for life. Contracts are not guaranteed, the lesser guys get two or three years of better than average salaries, you need to get vested for pension and benefits which is four years, the average career is less than four years. The health benefits run out after fives years of being out of football. The association has screwed the membership. The players all have pre-existing conditions and a lot of them cannot get insurance and end up on SSI and Medicare. The stuff you see on pre-game shows with all the yuks and listen to on talk radio is not the real world. You should try and talk to Dave Pear, Brent Boyd, Gene Atkins, George Visger, Pat Matson and the others about the hell they paid after their career and being on their own with no help from the NFL, NFLPA or their agents. That is the real story and while some of it has come out, most has been buried. Families destroyed, financial difficulties, physical ailments in players in their 40s and 50s. That's the reality.
4 Wednesday, 30 March 2011 11:00
Paul B
Looks like Sam Huff was blindsided. I have read that Brees has done more for trying to bring players together than some guys in Huff's era. Looks like another retired guy being used for propoganda.
3 Wednesday, 30 March 2011 10:51
I agree that Brees is not the bad guy, and it's crazy for Huff to say that Brees "needs to keep his mouth shut." Brees is also right that a lot of players blow their money. There are many, many examples of pro athletes who squandered millions. Trading jabs in the media does absolutely nothing to address the problem. If Brees is just repeating what someone else said, then Huff and Morris should meet with him and explain why they think he is misguided. That would get all the players on the same page, as Huff says he wants, and would effectively make older players an important piece of the current negotiations. If Huff truly wants all players to be on the same team, he needs to actually talk to the current players and get everyone on the same page. Stop the stupid media game.

These older players took a beating just like current players, and those injuries need to be treated. The NFL has the money (and the pie is growing) so they should do something for these guys. If the older players were asking for big pensions, then I would agree that they are only looking for a handout. But, if they are asking for medical coverage to treat the injuries they received "building the game", then that sounds reasonable.

The fact that the NFL is pushing them toward Medicare and Social Security means that ALL OF US are paying for the NFL's shortcomings in that area. They need to take care of their own problems....especially since they have plenty of money to do so.
2 Wednesday, 30 March 2011 09:39
He should keep his mouth shut? Brees has every right to spout his opinion just as Huff does. The former players should quit badgering both the league and the union since they're essentially asking for a handout. Those players didn't make what today's players make but they surely made more than the average Joe. They're not entitled to any more than they're already getting.
1 Wednesday, 30 March 2011 07:38
Jamie P.
BREES is not the bad guy. It is totally true that most NFL players WASTED MONEY and made terrible financial decisions like marrying gold-diggers that affected their future, but it is totally someone elses fault. They new they didn't get paid that much back then so they should have planned accordingly!!!

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